The Fab 50: The top-ranked course in each state, according to our raters
Jon Cavalier, Evan Schiller, Channing Benjamin, Brian Oar
While not every state was represented in GOLF’s 2020-21 ranking of the Top 100 Courses in the U.S., our 97 course raters and GOLF architecture editor Ran Morrissett, dug extra deep to compile another list that identified the best courses in all 50 states.
And in this post, we’re combining the best of both lists in one place: The No. 1 golf course in each of America’s 50 states. Ready to dive in? Check out the alphabetized list in its entirety below.
Gear up for your next golf trip
Jack Nicklaus’ first solo design remains one of his best. The course moves through a densely wooded valley between Oak and Double Oak Mountains where you seldom see another group of golfers. Shoal Creek has a really good set of par threes and fives, with some nice fours as well. The course moves with the land and is an easy walk with gently undulating bent grass greens (one of the few with bent this far south).
Forest Highlands (Canyon)
A large scale Trent Jones design in the horse country above Wilmington. The style and placement of bunkering are what you would expect. The long third and the par 3 fourth (reminiscent of a famous par 3 in Georgia) are the best holes on a very strong course.
Nicklaus includes one of his favorite hole designs… a double fairway par five, hole number 7. He gives the player choices , with the left shorter fairway having a more challenging approach with a forced carry over water to the green. The green complexes are challenging, but not as devious as some other Nicklaus designs. Valhalla strikes the perfect balance, capable of hosting the PGA Championship and Ryder Cup while still being fun for the average golfer to enjoy as well.
The Country Club (Main)
Baltimore (Five Farms East)
Five Farms lays on a great piece of rolling land. Tillinghast used the land well with a routing that takes advantage of the many natural green sites resulting in varied, interesting and challenging greens which are the crown jewels of the course. Five Farms also features arguably two of Tillinghast’s best par 5’s, the barn hole 6th and the great hazard 14th. The course restoration expanded the greens and fairways, allowing for more hole locations resulting in more angles and options across the course. If you score an invite, drop everything and go.
White Bear Yacht
St. Louis CC
Mossy Oak Golf Club is a 4 year-old public access venue that compliments its ownership – the private Old Waverly Club across the road. Gil Hanse designed a heathland style course on a largely treeless, mildly undulating tract of land. Mossy’s compact routing is dominated by large, ornate “Sand Belt” bunkers and native grass rough defines the generous fairways that feature the occasional creek and combine to create great aesthetics. There’s a nice variety of holes, very flexible tee markers and moderately large greens.
Rock Creek Cattle Company
Pinehurst No. 2
Bald Peak Colony
Architect Baxter Spann capitalized on a grand opportunity to layer classic design features on a spacious block of property in the high desert of New Mexico. Plenty of room is provided off the tee (which is a good thing as some of the carries appear more daunting than they are) and the challenge stiffens at the imaginative set of greens. From the 2nd in a natural saddle with its false front to the 10th with its reverse redan features, the greens pose all sorts of appealing questions. The green fees are very reasonable and the course represents one of America’s great golf bargains.
Kiawah Island (Ocean Course)
Sutton Bay (New)
Trivia question – who worked with Walter Travis (of Garden City and Hollywood(NJ) fame) on the construction of Ekwanok? John Duncan Dunn. Dunn created the original course at Quaker Ridge that Tillinghast evolved into a masterpiece. Given the embryonic state of golf course architecture in the US when this course was built, whoever chose the property deserves an award. What an AMAZING thing to have gorgeous mountain vistas in the middle of this lovely gently moving terrain. The funky, slopey greens transport one back in time to the pre-14 on the Stimp time. A must play in New England.
Shooting Star GC
Give Tom Fazio a mountain setting and moving streams and you will get a work of art which is what you have at Shooting Star. Located next to the Jackson Hole Ski Area, there is nice variety in the short holes and the longer holes have enough width and the greens enough protection to make for a strategic test.